What are core beliefs?
These are ideas which we use as a benchmark to judge ourselves and those around us. We see the world, our own behaviour and the behaviour of other people through the ‘lens’ of the core beliefs.
We are generally not aware of them unless we stop and really think about the messages that we are giving ourselves, every day.
They are generally inflexible and very strongly held. We do not question them – we just accept them as true. They underpin our actions and our thoughts, and can cause problems when they are negative. They can and do affect how we live our lives.
If negative, they can lead to issues such as low self-confidence, anxiety, poor adaption to stressful situations, withdrawal from social situations, and (in the extreme) phobias.
Examples of some negative core beliefs are:-
- I am worthless
- I am vulnerable
- I always fail
- People cannot be trusted
If negative, core beliefs can lead to issues such as low self-confidence, anxiety, poor adaption to stressful situations, withdrawal from social situations, and (in the extreme) phobias.
Once a negative core belief has been established, it can be maintained by looking at whatever happens in the world through that filter, and thus only noticing facts that support the negative belief.
Here are some negative core beliefs which you may wish to remove from your life:-
1. There is something wrong with me.
Other variations of this are: I’m afraid, I’m flawed, I’m no good, I’m stupid, I’m worthless, I don’t matter, I’m a failure, I’m vulnerable, I’m helpless, I have no-one to protect me, I will fail at everything I do.
This can lead to low self-confidence, social anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, over-eating, loneliness, and reluctance to attempt new tasks.
2. I am unlovable.
Other variations of this are: Nobody wants me, I’m better off alone, nobody understands me, I bore others, I am hated by others, I don’t need other people.
This can lead to social anxiety, over-eating, loneliness, and acceptance of inferior treatment from others
3. If I love someone, they will leave me.
Other variations of this are: Everyone abandons me, it’s dangerous to love someone, if you love someone you just get hurt, I don’t deserve love, I am rejected by people.
This can lead to loneliness, reluctance to maintain relationships, and suspicion of others’ motives.
4. I am vulnerable.
Other variations of this are: You can never trust anyone or anything, others are out to get me, I’m powerless, I’m helpless, I’m weak, I have to be in control to survive, I must never let my guard down, I should never be vulnerable, I can’t be happy unless I am with someone, I must never reveal who I really am.
This can lead to similar situations to #3 above, but also over-reliance on other people, lack of authenticity in relationships, and lack of self-confidence.
5. I am not good enough.
Other variations of this are: I‘m a failure, I’ll never succeed, I don’t fit in, There’s no point in trying in life, I’m unwanted, I’m lost, I shouldn’t be here, I’m disposable, I never come first, I’m unimportant, I’m not a valuable person, I’m imperfect, I’m unattractive, I’m stupid, I’m awkward, I’m slow, I’m dirty, I’m ugly, I’m fat, I don’t deserve anything.
This can lead to low self-confidence, social anxiety, over-eating, and adoption of habits (smoking, drinking alcohol, etc.)
6. I’m different.
Other variations of this are: I feel like I’m from another planet, I’m misunderstood, I don’t fit in, There is something wrong with me, I have to hide who I am to be liked, I am unbalanced, I do everything wrong, I see things differently from other people.
This can lead to social anxiety and isolation, difficulty making friends, and lack of authentic relationships.
7. I have to be happy to be liked.
Other variations of this are: I cannot show my true feelings, If I do bad things I am a bad person, I can’t have bad thoughts, I cannot be sad.
Similar to some of the points above, this can lead to anxiety if the person has bad thoughts or is sad, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence.
8. Everything is my fault.
Other variations of this are: I always get it wrong, I can fix other people, I am at fault if other people do not take my advice, I am selfish if I think about myself, I have to be perfect, I am always wrong, I’m a mistake, I’m in the wrong place.
This can lead to depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, and low self-esteem.
All of these core beliefs will lead to specific actions, some of which are listed above. In a sense the negative core beliefs cloud the person’s judgement of the world.
Negative core beliefs can be changed by examining them and testing them in the real world by acting contrary to the core belief (e.g. showing your feelings even if you have a belief that it may upset your friends) (see earlier blogpost). You can then see if the consequences are as bad as you anticipated – and they usually are not! This does take some work, but the results are well worth it!